I honestly don’t envy Keith Kizer. As the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Kizer is at the forefront of the current demonization of the judging system in Mixed Martial Arts, in particular its seemingly-inept, bordering-on-brain-dead judges. Recently, longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan was so incensed by another ridiculous decision that he took Kizer to task live on television during the recent “The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale” event. But according to Kizer, Rogan is taking the easy way out.
MMAJunkie recently conducted an interview with Kizer, and here are some of the highlights: “He may think some of the judges aren’t as good as I do, and that’s fine… But I’ve gotten rid of several judges during my tenure, and every judge has to keep doing well if they want to stay a judge, so I don’t disagree with cleaning house of officials that aren’t worthy of it, and I’ve done so… You can argue accurately and honestly, or you can argue and … you can try to skew the facts. Unfortunately, some people take the easy way out.”
This may be an unpopular stance to take, but I actually agree with Keith Kizer. Now, please, give me a chance to explain myself before you pull out the pitchfork. I agree with Kizer that this situation isn’t as black and white as everyone, including Joe Rogan, seems to think it is. I do think that there are a lot of problems with the judging in today’s MMA, and that some drastic changes may need to be made in the very near future. But as with all sweeping changes, it’s not as easy as saying “clean house”, which is what Rogan basically summed up his argument as.
Let’s try and calm down and think this through for a second, fans and friends. What’s solved when we just fire everyone and bring in some new blood and a couple fresh pairs of eyes? Sure, some judges seem to be far beyond saving. I myself have poked fun at Cecil Peoples time and time again. But should we punish everyone? Even Joe Rogan admitted that there are some good judges out there. Are we really solving anything by eliminating the ignorant instead of ignorance itself?
The only way we’ll ever be able to have a lasting impact on the quality of judging in MMA is if we realize that this is a slow process that’s going to take years and a lot of teaching. We don’t need to fire the bad judges and replace them with new judges, the risk of those new judges simply repeating past mistakes is too great. We need to get judges new and old and put them in seminars. We need to make them watch tapes, we need instructors to explain things to them, we need to foster honest discussion and get some feedback going. I know this involves a lot of work on the part of MMA professionals, and that a lot of MMA judges will have to put their egos aside in order to make the most out of the extensive re-training they’ll have to go through.
But what’s the alternative, honestly? Do we just keep throwing crud at the wall, hoping that eventually some of it will stick? Do we just keep mass-firing and mass-hiring judges until we’re only left with the good ones? Doesn’t that sound incredibly taxing for all involved? If you’re upset with judges being ignorant… teach them. Is it really that simple? By no means. But it’s a start, and long-term, it’s a far more worthwhile solution than to simply clean house once every few years and hope for the best.
But what about you, fans and friends? It seems like the battle-lines are being drawn more and more nowadays, on whose side do you stand on when it comes to this particular issue?